Praying through the Psalms

Praying through the Psalms

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What is the Church For?

Readings for the Day
Ecclesiastes 4-6, Psalm 18, Ephesians 3

Verses for the Day
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

The book of Ephesians is one of Paul's most widely praised letters. It's primary focus is on both the unity and diversity of the church. Considering the times we live in, unity and diversity are often seen as mutually exclusive. To be unified it is often thought of as the need to keep outsiders from coming in. On the flip side, diversity is good until we get a diversity of beliefs, contrary to the one, true gospel. As Paul writes his letter to the Ephesians, he writes to a city that had many influences on it, due to its location. It was a major city with all kids of beliefs and cultural influences.

Paul writes that his mission was to the Gentiles. There were plenty of Gentiles in the Ephesian church, as well as Jewish Christians. Paul's call was to make the gospel as clear as possible so that everyone would know that Jesus came to save all people, both the Jew and the Gentile. Of course, a good Jew would know this if they really knew the covenant God first made with Abraham. The very first covenant with the Jews was when God promised Abraham, "through you all nations would be blessed!" Though God chose a particular people, the Jews, to bring in the Messiah, his purpose was always to provide salvation for all people.

This was a mystery kept hidden in the past because most people thought God's people were for the Jews only. But the ultimate purpose of God came through Jesus, who offered God's riches without boundaries. So Paul's calling, his mission which God gave him the grace to accomplish, was to make plain the Gospel to all people. So often we make the gospel confusing. But the gospel really isn't all that complex. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, Jesus to save it. To all who would receive this great gift, He gave them the power to become children of God. As you can see this Gospel is Good News for all people.

When the church is at its worst is when it stays homogeneous, and is afraid to engage a culture that is different than itself. The gospel treats all people the same. We are all sinners in need of God's grace regardless of age, sex, color or wealth. Paul, though a Jew, took the Gospel to a culture much different than his own, with different traditions and religions. But God called him out of his comfort zone by his grace, and gave him the gifts he needed to accomplish this great calling in the first church.

Where do you think the church needs to be like Paul, in reaching out to people unlike those in its own pews? What will we need to be successful at this? How does what God gave Paul to do this work apply to us? Are we making the gospel plain to everyone, or speaking in code language that only those who are like us will understand? If we want to carry the true mission of the one true Church, we had better be asking these questions, and asking God for the grace and power to carry it out!

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